Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, Lower Jordan River, Jericho
Today we stopped at five locations by heading north along the coast of the Dead Sea. We began with a trip to the fortress city of Masada. This was the south eastern border city of ancient Israel. The city sits atop a lone mountain plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. We took a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain and walked through the city. Herod the Great built a 3-tiered palace at the city and the city controlled all commerce heading into the promise land from the south east region. Thankfully we took the gondola because the only path that existed in ancient times was a 1500-foot vertical climb called the snake path!
The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The “Snake Path” climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).
Our second destination was Ein Gedi which holds some amazing biblical significance. Ein Gedi is a water spring that runs out of the mountains into the Dead Sea. There is lush vegetation, caves, cliffs, and multiple waterfalls. Many members of our group immersed themselves under a small waterfall. This location holds biblical significance because David and his men hid from king Saul in the area and this is the location of the famous and humorous story from 1 Samuel 23 where Saul goes to relieve himself in a cave. David sneaks up on him and cuts a piece of his robe. David could have forced his hand and tried to establish himself as king but he instead trusted God’s timing and did not harm the man who was trying to kill him. It also teaches us to fully check out any cave you are using to go #2.
En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. The springs here have allowed nearly continuous inhabitation of the site since the Chalcolithic period. The area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, and was famous in the time of Solomon (Josh 15:62). Today the Israeli kibbutz of En Gedi sits along the southern bank of the Nahal Arugot.
Next, we headed to Qumran for lunch and teaching. Qumran was a unique city of people living as priests who were dedicated to the scriptures. The city was a commune and the people there had a room specifically used to copy scripture. This city is significant because the caves located just a few hundred yards away are known for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The priests of this city are the reason we have the oldest known copies of the Old Testament.
10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a “dead-end street” and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live.
The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.
The fourth place we visited was the lower Jordan River. The place we visited is believed to be near the area Jesus was baptized. This location really stood out to me because of a story in the book of Joshua. When the Israelites finally moved into the promise land, they first crossed the Jordan River. They did this by first bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the river and the river split. For generations the Israelites had hoped for the fulfillment of God’s promise going back to Abraham. The Jordan represents God’s fulfillment of His promise.
Finally, we went through the city of Jericho. Jericho holds significance for many reasons but outside the city is believed to be the wilderness that Jesus entered when He was tempted by Satan. The only thing we were tempted with was chocolate covered dates and nuts. Ha! We head north to the edge of the Sea of Galilee and onto our hotel. God is good!
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